Friday, February 26, 2021

BFA’s blunders will derail Botswana football

During his playing days, Paul was a very good player envied by almost every coach in the Premier League. He was a versatile player who could play as a right back or winger and used his speed to create and even score all important and decisive goals. It was not surprising when he made it to the senior national team at a very young age.

Also known as ‘Pio’ or ‘PP 10′ Paul made his name at Township Rollers whilst still a student at Naledi Senior Secondary. His main undoing was his temper in the field of play. He would normally give a 100 percent performance through-out the match, but end up being given marching orders towards the end for a silly mistake.

After an illustrious career, Paul ventured into coaching and had a stint at several elite teams including BMC where he won the Coca Cola tournament a few years ago. Just last year he was afforded an opportunity to be Assistant Coach of the senior national team, deputizing Briton James Peter Butler. Paul also doubled up as national Under 23 coach, in line with international practice.

When they assumed national team duty, Paul and Butler were met with a baptism of fire in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. From the six games played by the Zebras, they managed only a point and a goal. On the other hand, at the national Under 23, Paul assembled a very strong team for the 2016 Africa Championships qualifiers.
The championships’ also act as a ticket for the 2016 Olympics, to be held in Rio De-Janeiro, Brazil. Just from the friendly matches the team played, it was evident that Paul’s team was destined for greatness because they managed to beat some senior national teams of other countries. It was not surprising when they thrashed Kenya in their first qualification match 3-0 at Lobatse stadium some few weeks back. In the return leg they lost 4-1 but progressed by an away goal. Botswana was then to meet Zambia this past Friday in Lobatse.

But 48 hrs before the encounter, the soccer fraternity received the shocking news that Paul had been sacked. Paul was dismissed for what Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Tebogo Sebego said was lack of respect. Paul is alleged to have hit out at the BFA on public radio stations much to the annoyance of his superiors. The BFA hastily called a meeting where a decision was made to relieve the man of his duties. The problems between Paul and the BFA seem to emanate from selection of players. Just after the Kenyan match, it was evident that Paul and Butler were headed for a collision course because several players in the Under 23 were selected for the senior national team. With the Under 23 having played on Friday and the senior national team playing on Sunday, a plan had to be made by the football authorities. Zebras were playing in the regional tourney, COSAFA Castle Cup with South Africa in Rustenburg.

BFA was reportedly cold on the matter and the last straw that irked Paul the most was when five of his players were called to the senior national team without his knowledge, though he was an interested party. Paul then vented his anger in some radio stations where he said he is being sabotaged because he is a local. Juxtaposed to Paul’s situation, Coach Butler had in the past displayed a tendency of using the social media especially twitter to vent his anger at both the BFA and even football supporters at large. Some of his comments drew sharp criticism across the football fraternity. This has also led to some people questioning BFA’s dismissal of Paul while they did not take a strong stand against Butler. On the other hand the standoff between Paul and the BFA has reignited a question on the priorities of football in Botswana.

COSAFA Castle Cup is normally not taken serious by Southern African countries because they bring either their developmental teams or third string teams. As things stand Botswana might be the only country to have brought a full strength team that even comprises of South Africa based players. Some people say the BFA should have given Paul a free hand in picking his choice of players because African championships are more important than COSAFA. On the other hand a veteran football coach and administrator, Matshidiso Sexton Kowa pointed it out that BFA should come out clear on their mandate with Butler. He said he cannot say much because he does not understand Butler’s agreements with BFA.

“Actually I do not really know the agreements between Butler and the BFA and I think they should be made public. Almost all countries are sending their weaker teams to COSAFA and I wonder why we are taking our strong one,” he said. Kowa who is renowned for producing quality players like Sundowns bound, Mogakolodi Ngele said if it was for him he would prioritise the Under 23 because they also serve as qualifications’ for the Olympics. “Lets be honest we have already beaten Kenya in the qualifiers and we are currently playing Zambia. Who knows maybe we could do well and progress to the Olympics. Also these games are watched by scouts from all over the world. If we give priority to COSAFA, then there is a problem and we are not getting our priorities right,” he said. On the other hand, one local coach who preferred anonymity took a swipe at the BFA and even blamed them for Paul’s outbursts.

“What really was Paul supposed to do? Clearly these guys did not want him and they made a trap and got him. Paul has his own weaknesses like any other human being but he is a good coach and clearly he was overshadowing Butler and the latter did not want that. BFA on the other hand supported Butler and they had their field day. If BFA were serious there should have been a bit compromise on the selection of players like it once happened during the time of David Bright and another Briton, Colywn Rowe,” he said.

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